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CERN People: The Everyday Humans That Smash Particles and Capture Antimatter

A new series of short videos puts a human face to the world's leading high-energy physics lab.
October 11, 2014, 7:35pm

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, can seem like a sort of mythic place. This is where antimatter is created and captured, where the most elusive particles known to humans are produced from colliding beams of protons moving at just a hair under the speed of light, and it's where the internet as we know it was born. Also: the Higgs boson.

CERN is also full of people, with some 2,500 regular staff members and a rotating cast of visiting fellows now numbering upwards of 12,000, representing 608 universities and research facilities from 113 different countries.

A recently-released series of short films, called CERN People, aims to give the lab a human face, showing what it's like to be a physicist at the leading edge of high-energy research at one of the most expensive science projects in human history. Much of the series, directed and shot by American filmmaker Liz Mermin, hinges around the discovery of the Higgs boson, and all the stresses and anxieties that came with it.

There are 23 videos in the series, with some of those consisting of multiple parts. They're all pretty short; at two or three minutes long they're more what you'd consider vignettes. I haven't watched the whole series yet, but this is a favorite so far:

"This series is not trying to explain what the Higgs is," Mermin told Fermilab's Symmetry Breaking magazine. "It is about searching for something new and how this process works. I hope people get a bit of feeling about what goes on and a little more invested in the value of fundamental research like this."

The entirety of CERN People can be found here.